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Cows graze on a hill as the Bay Area gets a break from the rain on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010, in Brentwood, Calif. Photograph taken looking west on Camino Diablo Road. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)
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Still upset over the devilish connotations of Mount Diablo, an Oakley man has again petitioned a federal agency to rename Contra Costa County's signature peak.

This time he wants to rename the 3,849-foot-high mountain for the 40th president of the United States — Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Arthur Mijares officially proposed Mount Reagan to the United States Board on Geographic Names last summer, and the Contra Costa County supervisors committee will be briefed on options at a meeting Monday. The federal agency gave the supervisors until March 31 to submit an opinion.

Mijares, a devout Christian, says he believes the word "Diablo" — Spanish for "devil" — is "derogatory and profane," according to the federal board report. Mijares was unavailable for comment Thursday.

In 2005, he attempted to change the name to Mount Reagan, but the board, citing its Commemorative Naming Policy, told him the late president needed to be dead for at least five years before receiving such an honor. The former California governor died June 5, 2004.

Mijares argued that the devil, or "diablo," was a "living person" so that name should also be prohibited. He eventually settled on three alternative options: Mount Yahweh, Mount Miwok or Mount Ohlone. The federal board denied all three options, citing the negative recommendations from the supervisors and other agencies, many with Mount Diablo in their names.

This go-round, Mijares petitioned for Mount Reagan from the start, now that the late Republican is eligible.


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"The Commemorative Name (Mount Reagan) speaks for itself," wrote Mijares to the board. He also included a Wikipedia entry for the late president with his application.

Supervisor Mary Piepho, of Discovery Bay, disagreed that the mountain is named profanely.

"I think Ronald Reagan is a great guy, too. Certainly I have all the respect for Reagan, too," she said. "But no, I don't think it's the proper designation for Mount Diablo, with all due respect for this man's religious beliefs."

Supervisor Gayle Uilkema, of Lafayette, a member of the legislative committee, said there are more appropriate ways to honor Reagan.

"I would prefer not to disturb the historical significance of the mountain," she said. "The name Mount Diablo has been part of this county for a very long time."

There are several stories of how Mount Diablo got its name, according to the federal board. In the early 19th century, members of a Spanish military expedition searched for some runaway Chupcan Indians. The runaways escaped in a thick brush called Monte del Diablo, or "thicket of the devil."

Another version had the Indians escaping across a local stream, "an act only possible with the help of the devil," the report stated. Yet another story told how Spanish soldiers were treated to a diabolic dance by an Indian medicine man.

"Mijares believes that the name celebrates the devil, but he doesn't know history," said Seth Adams, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo in Walnut Creek. "Hundreds of years ago, people were a lot more religious than they are now. They thought God and the devil were all around them, and naming something after the devil was a way of reminding themselves to be aware."

Mount Diablo has appeared on U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps since 1896 and has been listed on numerous Contra Costa County maps since the mid-19th century.

California has four administrative features, three buildings and one school named in honor of Reagan, according to the federal board.

Contact Matthias Gafni at mgafni@bayareanewsgroup.com.